Resto-Mod Restorations: Part 8 — Upgrading A Resto-Mod With Factory Goodies
In the process of restoring his 1967 Camaro Resto-Mod, Jeff Noll converted the car from a straight SS (Super Sport) into one with the RS/SS (Rally Sport/Super Sport) option combination. In addition to adding the RS equipment package, he also added a factory style cowl-induction hood and swapped the aftermarket rear deck lid spoiler that came with the car back to a factory style spoiler. Some aftermarket equipment additions were made during the build, too. However, the focus of this chapter is on upgrades made using "factory" options.
The standard '67 Camaro front end parts came with the car when Jeff Noll purchased it, but he preferred the Rally Sport front end with Hide-Away lights.
The RS parts and trim pieces were sold as a complete package. Jeff bought the kit which included the flip-up typer grille sections at each side.
In Jim Mokwa's case, while he was building the "'69 GTO convertible of his dreams," he decided that he wanted factory Hide-Away headlights on the car for a cleaner look. Then, he added a rear deck lid spoiler. This spoiler was originally standard fare on the '69 GTO Judge, but buyers could also order one for a regular GTO. Jim added a hood-mounted tachometer to his car, too. The "hood tach" (as enthusiasts call it) became a conversation piece at car shows.
In both of these projects, the changes and factory equipment upgrades made to both cars weren't done to fake anyone out or improperly raise the value of the car. Jeff and Jim never intended to trick anyone into believing that their Resto-Mod muscle cars came from the factory with the options they were adding to them. The two enthusiasts simply wanted to build their own personal cars the way they liked them. The freedom to personalize a vehicle while you are building the car is one of the main motivations behind the Resto-Mod movement today.
This chapter is going to talk a little about the Resto-Mod movement and explain how a Resto-Mod restoration project allows hobbyists to build their "dream cars." And then, because many Resto-Mod builders want to do the same things to their Resto-Mods, we're going to tell you how Jeff Noll and Jim Mokwa found and installed their favorite factory options and packages on their cars.
Another nice thing to keep in mind about such conversions is that Resto-Mod builders are using the factory add-ons only to achieve the "look" or added performance the factory offered in higher end models. However, it is not important that the added goodies exactly match the original factory packages. Therefore, the builders are free to skip searching years for a part made out of "unobtanium" and to use a substitute part that's easier to find or less expensive to buy, as long as the overall car winds up with the right image or performance.
In the car collecting hobby, the term "clone" has taken on the connotation of being a fake. For example, a base Ford Mustang made into a Mustang GT with a "Pony" interior or an entry-level Mopar H-Class Challenger restored as a performance-oriented S-Class Challenger R/T might be considered bogus, if the person who built the car represented it as the real thing. And even if it is not misrepresented, the clone would not have the value of a real GT or R/T model.
In the world of purist muscle car collectors, building an all-out fake simply to raise the value of a car is a "no-no." In fact, it is considered particularly fraudulent if the clone is represented as the real thing in order to sell it at an auction. To a real collector car enthusiast, each car has its own individual "history" or "pedigree" and you aren't supposed to mess with it. So, even if the builder did a great job copying an original and built an identical twin to the factory model, it is not the same as a genuine GT or R/T. So, collectors shun clone cars.
Things are different, however, in the Resto-Mod world. In this case, the authenticity and originality of the car are not big value factors. More creativity goes into the construction of a Resto-Mod. Everyone knows that Resto-Mods are built to resemble the cool cars of the '60s, but that they have many modern upgrades to make them look, feel, run and handle better. In fact, this is one of the things that makes building a Resto-Mod so much fun. You can essentially do whatever you want to personalize the car and you're not cheating anyone.
Also remember that one goal is to keep a '60-ish appearance, but still make the Resto-Mod as good-looking a car as possible. And most of us will agree (unless we own one of the cheaper cars), that the higher-priced cars the factory loaded with all kinds of options do look better. In other words, the Camaro SS/RS looked snappier than a base Camaro and a GTO looked brighter and fancier than a lowly Tempest. The factory added things like spoilers, striping packages, hood scoops and flip-up headlights to give their enthusiast-niche cars a little extra pizzazz. Since Resto-Mods are not a purist type car, their builders can enhance their appearance with either original or reproduction factory options.
Jim Takes the Resto-Mod Road
Jim Mokwa wanted a Resto-Mod from the start of his involvement with the '69 GTO convertible that he bought in Washington. His car had been seriously "beat up," including a battering by an angry lady with a baseball bat. The GTO's original engine and tranny had been swapped out. A lot more had been changed, too, but low production was the car's redeeming quality. Jim had sent in to Jim Mattison at Pontiac Historic Services to research the car. The documents from PHS showed that only 7,327 other GTOs like it were made. It was pretty rare.
"I heard that this Resto-Mod thing was happening and I found out that Resto-Mod guys don't get overly concerned about having factory-correct engines and one hundred percent numbers-matching parts," says Jim Mokwa. "They care more about looks and go-power and building a car that looks really cool and is fun to drive and own. Jim already had a couple of real nice original GTOs, so he thought to himself, "Why not build a Resto-Mod and have fun?"
."I'm glad I went Resto-Mod and put in a modern drive train," says Mokwa today. "The performance part—the horsepower we built into this car—is unbelievable. This ragtop is totally different than my other GTOS. The other cars feel like they have six-cylinder engines under the hood compared to this one."
Jim pointed out that most Resto-Mod builders are younger, Internet-savvy enthusiasts who are quick to network with each other to share design ideas and parts resources. They are used to the "feedback" method of rating the best and worst parts in the marketplace and they "tell it like it is" when they talk about what works well and what doesn't. This saves the restorer hassles and money.
"The Internet was a valuable source of tips and information about every phase of my restoration," says Jim. "I would go on the chat rooms on the Performance Years Website all the time to ask how-to-do-it questions." Even though the car is a Resto-Mod with modifications from stock, Mokwa has compiled a thick file of data about the car, including copies of the original dealer invoice and the factory build sheet. He is still looking for tips because there's always fine tuning to do. "When you take it on the road, there is nothing quite like driving this car," he smiles. "But I also have nothing against making it go faster or run smoother if someone out there on the Internet has tips along those lines."
Jeff Goes Resto-Modding, Too
In 1967, the RS model-option could be added to any Camaro with any engine. The RS parts and trim pieces were sold as a complete package and included some neat-looking content. When Jeff Noll did the Resto-Mod build of his '67 Camaro SS, he decided to convert the car into a Camaro RS as well.
Jeff's model-year was the first one for the Camaro, it was merchandised as a two-door hardtop and a convertible. There was only one series, but buyers could create different "models" by adding pre-packaged assortments of RPOs (regular production options). This was simply an early expression of what you run into when you buy a computer today and add "bundles" of hardware or software.
The RPO Z22 Rally Sport package cost Chevrolet dealers $76 and retailed for $105.35. In addition to or place of the standard Camaro equipment, cars with the Rally Sport package featured a vertical ornament with an "RS" emblem in the center of the grille, a similar emblem on the round gas cap at the center of the rear body panel, an "RS" emblem on the circular steering wheel horn button, a black-finished full-width lattice grille with electrically operated concealed headlights, lower body side moldings, a black accent under body side moldings (with specific body colors), color-keyed body accent stripes, sporty styling for the front parking and turning lights, sports-style back-up lights, a distinctive edged-in-black taillight treatment with two lamps in each taillight unit for driving, braking and turn signal direction, bright metal front and rear wheel opening moldings, and a bright drip rail molding along the roof on Sport Coupes.
According to Jeff Noll, when the factory received and order for a Camaro where the RS and SS options were "teamed" together on the same car, it gave precedence to the use of SS emblems over RS emblems. So, Jeff used SS emblems on the grille, fenders and rear panel of his car. The SS package included extra trim and interior options. Jess used the standard interior (which he thinks was available in 1967 in RS models), since converting to Deluxe trim would have meant extra hassle and cost in changing the door panels, installing different seat covers and changing the interior door handles and gauges.
Jazzing Up Jim's GTO
Jim purchased the spoiler for his GTO from the Parts Place, a supplier located in Illinois. He found out that the spoiler used on '69 GTO convertibles is actually wider than the spoiler used on hardtop models. Since Jim owns a stock '69 Judge, he referred to it to correctly mount the rear spoiler on his convertible.
Jim Mokwa purchased the spoiler for his GTO from the Parts Place, a supplier located in Illinois. The convertible part is wider than the hardtop model.
The underside of the trunk lid where the spoiler mounts was designed with larger access holes so that a socket wrench could be reached through the wider hole to tighten the nuts on the studs that hold the spoiler in place. Jim discovered this little detail by studying the trunk lid on his original Judge. He has discovered that many restorers drill just one size hole through the trunk supports on the non-Judge trunk lid to mount their spoiler, but he feels this makes the car look unfinished. Jim fsaid the reproduction spoiler that he bought was a rough copy of the factory item that needed sanding and bodywork to make it flat and smooth.
The hood-mounted tachometer that Jim installed on his GTO convertible gets lots of looks at classic car shows. Jim says that many people ask him, "What's that on your hood?" When they find out it is a hood-mounted tachometer (which Pontiac pioneered) they think it's cool. The hood tach was bought from a company called Performance Years. It came with a template to help installers cut a hole in the right spot on the hood. Jim warns, "Measure twice and cut once."
To install the hood tach, Jim very carefully used a saber saw with a fine tooth blade to make a nice cut. He said the fine tooth blade is designed so as not to bend the edge of the metal. Part of the cut goes through the hood's under brace. To do this right, Jim looked at a car that came from the factory with a hood tach. He said that Performance Years GTO Parts also sells a reproduction of the correct hood tach wiring harness that runs from the tach to the electrical coil and also to a power source. According to Jim, good instructions were included with this wiring harness and made it simple to install the option on the car correctly.
"The Hide-Away headlight system is an animal all its own," says Jim Mokwa.
Many parts for the Hide-Away headlight system have been reproduced and can be bought through Performance Years GTO. Jim was fortunate, since the set came with the car when he bought it. Jim sandblasted all parts and painted them in the correct factory colors. He replaced all bushings and the vacuum canisters and vacuum hoses. You can get the correct color striped hoses from a company called Inline Tube and you need tp buy a special headlight switch, too. The switch has vacuum ports on it that open the light doors if you pull the switch for the lights.
Once you have everything on the Hide-Away headlight system nicely installed, Jim says that you should plan on spending a few hours adjusting the springs and cams that the open and close the doors. It is possible to adjust a system with droopy doors that are half open and half closed. It just takes time and patience. The doors are not held open by vacuum. Vacuum pulls the doors past the center point on a spring cam. It is the springs that hold the doors up.
Jim Mokwa's car came from the factory with a power operated rear mounted radio antenna. This is a rather rare option and Jim liked it because it slopes back towards the rear of the car, adding sleekness to its overall appearance. He restored the power antenna to its factory new condition.
Jeff's RS Conversion
To get started with his project of adding the Camaro RS package to his Camaro SS, Jeff Noll purchased an aftermarket radiator support needed to accommodate the Hide-Away headlight system that the RS used. He says that he had to push and pull on the new support just a little to get a perfect fit for the pieces of the RS grille kit. In addition, the mounting tabs for the standard Camaro grille had to be modestly re-worked to accommodate the RS Hide-Away headlight assemblies. The fender and the grille header panel also had to be adjusted to achieve a perfectly straight panel gap along the top edge.
The basic RS parts are the headlight brackets and the mini grille sections, but many other details had to be dealt with as well.
The mounting tabs for the standard Camaro grille also had to be modestly re-worked to accommodate the RS Hide-Away headlight assemblies.
The fender and the grille header panel also had to be adjusted using a wood block to achieve a perfectly straight panel gap along the top edge.
The grille adjustments were made prior to painting the car to avoid scratching paint. Then the grille was removed until the car was almost complete.
Jeff purchased the proper wiring harness from Classic Industries and re-wired the Camaro for the electric Hide-Away headlight motors, relays and limit switches.
Jeff Noll successfully converted the car from a straight SS (Super Sport) into one with the RS/SS (Rally Sport/Super Sport) option combination.
Since Jeff's car originally came without the RS option, it was not electrically wired for the Hide-Away headlight system and the RS conversion parts he bought did not come with the wiring harness either. Therefore, the RS engine wiring harness had to be installed in place of the standard item. Jeff purchased the proper wiring harness from Classic Industries and re-wired the Camaro for the electric Hide-Away headlight motors, relays and limit switches.
When Jeff bought the car, it did not have a radiator installed, so he added a "Be Cool" aluminum aftermarket radiator and he reports that he has never had any overheating problems with this item. He also added an aluminum radiator close out panel to fill the gap between the front cowl and the radiator. This setup provided better cooling and also enhanced the car's underhood appearance.
Jeff Noll worked on one panel or smaller area of his car at a time. He also bought a kit that included a template that he could use to cut in the rear back-up lights in order to convert the rear tail panel to RS specifications. In order to wire in the back-up lights that came with the RS conversion kit, Jeff had to make up a simple wiring harness extension and add it to his car's existing wiring harness. Being an engineer by trade, this wasn't hard for Jeff to fabricate and install.
Other Resto-Mod Personalizations
Jeff Noll liked the look of the Cowl Induction hood system that Chevy offered for Gen 1 Camaros. He discovered that this option fit all three early Camaro years 1967, 1968 and 1969, so he decided to add it to his Resto-Mod.
Jeff was lucky when it came to this installation. All the components he needed from a factory Cowl Induction hood system were included with the car when he bought it. The hood that came with the car was a Goodmark Industries reproduction of the original part. Jeff discovered that it didn't match the profile of the Camaro's front fenders perfectly because it wasn't made exactly to factory specifications. Jeff had to flatten the curvature of the hood very slightly "by walking" the edges down with body filler. That's why you can see some plastic filler along the edges of the hood in a number of his Camaro restoration photos.
The factory version of this option had a cowl vent that would be opened, through use of an electrical solenoid, whenever the driver pressed hard on the accelerator (probably many times with a Camaro driver). With the parts he got and a little work, Jeff figured out that he could make a fully functioning Cowl Induction hood setup. He had to add the proper cowl induction wiring harness, but this was readily available and proved easy enough to install. Jeff says that the system works great with the reproduction harness. "It is very cool to watch the cowl vent open when you really step down hard on the gas," he reports.
When Jeff Noll bought the car, it also had a non-original rear deck lid spoiler. During his build, Jeff replaced this part with an exact reproduction of the original factory style spoiler that '67 Camaros came with from the factory.
The factory options added to Jeff's Camaro and Jim's GTO don't tell the full stories of building these cars, because crate engines and other aftermarket parts were also used in their creation. We'll be telling you about some other Resto-Mod changes that both of these builders made in subsequent installments that focus on brakes, front suspensions, rear suspensions, wheels, tires, power train, wiring, sound systems and upholstery. In addition, we'll feature other cars, other builders and individual systems experts in some of those chapters as well.